The brute force attack is one of the oldest, most used and most effective hacking techniques. This method of cracking pass words mainly consists of trying until you finally reach your goal.
As technology has evolved, brute force attacks have become much easier to execute. Although it is a time and material resource consuming approach, the hacking has a high chance of success.
So what exactly is a brute force attack, why is it dangerous and how can you protect yourself from it?
Discovering and understanding brute force attacks: Summary
- What is a brute force attack?
- How does a brute force attack work?
- Different types of brute force attacks
- How to protect yourself against a brute force attack?
What is a brute force attack?
A brute force attack is an attempt to crack users’ personal information. This includes, but is not limited to, usernames, passwords, passphrases or PINs.
It isa type of cryptographic attack involving a script or bot used to force algorithms (password crackers) to guess the correct combination. Cybercriminals use a powerful computer to generate infinite variations of username/password pairs.
Because it relies on programs or bots to automatically solve the algorithms and crack the passwords, a brute force attack is relatively simple.
With enough time and computer resources, it is possible to hack into any password-based system. However, these attacks are extremely slow and not very effective. A brute force software or robot must go through all possible combinations of characters before guessing the correct credentials.
How does a brute force attack work?
An 8-character password, including letters, numbers and special symbols, has 406 trillion different combinations. With each additional character, the combinations only increase. Therefore, the longer the target string (a combination of characters), the more difficult and time consuming it will be to crack.
Beware, however, that the number of characters does not define the success of a brute force attack. It also depends on the computing power. Hackers can use computers capable of making a hundred trillion guesses per second. So they can get the right password quickly.
The time it takes to crack a password is a critical factor. For example, a brute force attacker can crack a basic password of 7 lowercase letters in a few milliseconds. However, a 9 character password increases the time to 5 days.
Strings of 10 characters can take 4 months, while cracking 11-character passwords can take 10 years. If we move to a 12-character password, hackers will need two centuries.
Different types of brute force attacks
In essence, a brute force attack is about guessing as many combinations as possible. However, there are some variations:
The dictionary attack
This is themost basic attack. The attacker takes a dictionary of pass words (a list of popular passwords) and checks them all. So if your password is “qwerty123” or “123456”, a brute force bot will crack it in seconds.
Reverse brute force attack
As the name suggests, this attack uses a reverse method to guess credentials. Instead of targeting a set of passwords, a reverse attack compares multiple usernames to a single popular password. In this case, attackers attempt to force a username with that particular password until they find the right pair.
Credential stuffing is a cyber attack in which addresses obtained from data theft on one service are used to attempt to log into another unrelated service. This is known as data recycling.
How to protect yourself against a brute force attack?
Protecting yourself from cybercriminals may seem like a daunting task. In reality, there are effective and simple ways to defend yourself.
Use strong passwords.
A brute force attack relies on weak passwords. Your password should be unique, long and hard to guess. Mix upper and lower case letters, add numbers and special symbols whenever possible. A password manager like NordLocker can also help.
Set up two-factor authentication (2FA).
If enabled,two-factor authentication adds a second layer of authentication. When you attempt to log in to your account, you must enter a specific code that only you can obtain. Each login attempt will require additional verification and prevent a successful brute force attack.
Check to see if you are safe.
You can check out HaveIBeenPwned.com. With new data breaches on the rise, it’s worth checking to see if your accounts are secure. In the event of a breach, credentials may end up in public databases or on the dark web.
Don’t reuse passwords on multiple platforms.
As convenient as it may be, you’re letting crooks break into multiple accounts with a single pair of credentials.
The success of a brute force attack is primarily due to weak passwords. However, a VPN can enhance your online security and overall privacy. By encrypting your traffic, a VPN hides everything you do online.
It protects you from many other dangers that lurk on the Internet, including hacking, data or identity theft, spying, etc.